Mark Johnson, Vice President of Operations for YMCA of the Roanoke Valley, and his son, Jake, a seventh-grader at Andrew Lewis Middle School, left on Saturday, Oct. 27, for a week-long service trip to Nicaragua.
Mark and Jake will be helping Mark’s cousin, Jeff Frayser, a missionary with Second Chance Ministries, to build a room for a mother and her five-year-old special needs daughter in Esteli, Nicaragua.
Frayser and his family were back in the states for a family reunion a few months ago, Mark said, when Jake started chatting with his cousin, Haley, about her family’s travels to Nicaragua. According to Mark, on the way home from the reunion Jake said, “I really would like to help the people in Nicaragua. It is so much better to help other people than yourself.”
“Well, when your 12-year-old has an ‘aha’ moment like that, it gets your juices flowing,” Mark said. “So I said, ‘Let’s go to Nicaragua…after I talk to your mother!’ ” After discussing the logistics with his wife, Mark and Jake were Nicaragua-bound.
“Nailing can’t walk because she’s been carried or pushed in a stroller,” Mark said. “The doctors think that, with enough exercise, she can learn to walk with a walker. They want her to get on the floor and start crawling,” he said, which is part of what he and son Jake will be helping to change.
The ground and other floors in Esteli are too rough and there isn’t an environment safe enough for crawling, according to Mark, so they’ll be building a 12 x 12 room with a padded floor where Nailing can learn to crawl. Frayser and Second Chance Ministries recently built the family a 12 x 12 home, so this room will be an addition. Mark, Jake and Frayser will be working alongside other Nicaraguans to help build the addition.
“It helps build community if the people down there help to build the home,” Mark said.
Before the flight, the excitement in the Johnson home was palpable. Jake was working each day to learn Spanish so he could communicate with Nailing and her mom, Mark said. He also seems to be planning to make the trip an annual family event–Jake keeps saying “…when we go next year…,” Mark said. He agrees that he’d like to see the trip become a regular event. He told his cousin, “I’m so proud of what you’re doing. You’re doing what a lot of us talk about.” The lightbulb went off for Mark.
“I want to be more like that. I want my kids to be more like that,” he said.
Mark and Jake plan to share photos from their trip, so check back at sosalem.com for updates and ways you can get involved.